Britny Fox bassist
Billy Childs

FIB MUSIC:  What's new, what have you been up to lately and what's in the future?

Billy:  Well, I had been working with a guy named Tommy Crash. We were doing the duo thing, but he moved down to Florida, so I haven't really been doing that anymore. I have some friends of mine that are starting to do well actually. They're from New York...called Crashbox. They have an album out on Kore. Also, have some friends in LA, called Still Standing...they're doing pretty good too. But as for myself, I'm not really doing much at the moment. I am probably going to go down to Florida and finish the cd that me & Tommy were working on...probably before the end of the summer.

FIB MUSIC:   So nothing on the Britny Fox front?

Billy:  No, not as far as I know. If anything were to happen, obviously I would be way into it. I don't know how those bands do. I mean, some of these 80's bands start playing shows again and they don't really draw well. Logistically, it doesn't always work out. We get offers occasionally to do things. But our singer lives out Wes, we're from back East and Johnny Dee is traveling all the time. So it's kind of hard to get us all in one place. But if anything came up and it was good enough for us to do...we would absolutely do it.

FIB MUSIC:  What is Johnny Dee doing now?

Billy:  He is playing with Doro Pesch and I believe he is doing a couple of other things. He is always doing know, drummers tend to be a bit more diversified than the rest of us. It's a little easier for them to do multiple projects. We even did a couple of gigs here in Philly a couple of months ago...played together for about a month or two.

Britny Fox
Billy Childs, Johnny Dee, Michael Kelly Smith,
"Dizzy" Dean Davidson
FIB MUSIC:  The two of you did?

Billy:   Yeah, Philadelphia is a huge area for cover bands. There are tons of them and they all make decent money.

FIB MUSIC:  Can you give us a little background on how Britny Fox formed?

Billy:  Well, when you are in a scene, everybody pretty much knows everybody. I had a cover band with Johnny Dee, both in our teens, and we split a practice place with another band, a heavier band, and that band had a drummer which was Dean Davidson. So that is where I first met Dean. Then years later after Cinderella broke up, I played in a band with Michael Kelly Smith. I played in that band for about three months; I wasn't particularly crazy about it, so I left. But that is where I first crossed paths with Mike.

FIB MUSIC:  So when you say Cinderella broke up, are you referring to when Michael & Tony Destra left the band?

Billy:  Yes, they were both in Cinderella and for lack of a better word, they were "canned". The label didn't want them in the band for whatever reason. You know, it's the politics of the record business, man.

Well, then about six months after I left the band that had Michael Kelly Smith, I was contacted by Dean & Mike regarding this band that they were putting together and they were going to use Tony Destra on drums. And that kind of intrigued me, because I always like Tony's playing and always wondered what was behind him getting the axe in Cinderella. So that's how it kind of started....The whole success thing happened fairly quick though. I guess about a year into it, or just a little over a year, that was when Tony passed away, due to the car accident. And we had to get Johnny Dee at that point. But we had already been vigorously shopping deals and we had a few things waiting for us and that's why we couldn't really stop at that point. We didn't really take anytime off at all. So, I guess it was about a year and half, from the inception of the band, until we finally signed the deal with Columbia Records. It really happened fast, but I have seen a lot of things in the music business and it seems to me that the things that really work and have success, always happen rather fast. If you are involved in one of the projects and you've been at it for four or five years, something ain't working. I mean, it's cool that people do that, but just in my experience, the things that have success, run smoothly from the start...almost like timing is on your side.

FIB MUSIC:   Now when you guys were a local act, did you do any self-financed touring, or did you just play shows in Philadelphia?

Billy:  Well, there really weren't that many places in Philadelphia. It's funny, because I hear people talk now and I am under the impression that they thought there was some kind big scene at that time. Now, there were five or six clubs, but what people fail to realize is that none of these clubs were open at the same time. The most we ever had was like three rock clubs and you could guarantee that one of those would be dying. Now there are about five or six clubs that people remember and they did good business, but they were not all open at the same time. Realistically, there were only two clubs that we really played at and that was The Galaxy every Saturday night and The Empire, we played...I think...every other Saturday or Sunday. But we used to rehearse at The Galaxy, that was the deal we had there...we'd rehearse and record our demos for free. Then we met our manager, Brian Kushner, who was working the door at The Galaxy. He had called us and asked us if we had representation, we said was fairly early in the band, you know? We didn't really have any other options at the time, so we agreed. Then, all of a sudden, he was bringing all these record labels out to see us. So, he knew somebody, because things started happening. But, none of it would have happened without Brian. He was the key to everything. At least, I believe that anyway. Anyhow, it was right about that time that we started doing some of the self-financed touring. And you know, it's funny, those were great times for me. I always liked that was about a six month window before we got the deal. It wasn't quite a business yet. We had succeeded to a certain point, but we weren't really worried about money yet. It was still what you got into it was a lot of fun. Not that it wasn't all fun, because it always is, but we would do these ten to twelve day band rides all through upstate New York, Pennsylvania, then down to Baltimore and then back up. Oh man, the van used to stink by the end of that. We did an awful lot of that and you know, that really helped us a lot. Sometimes we would literally play for two people, other times we'd walk in and play for two hundred people...for whatever reason, they had heard of us and they'd come out to see us. There was place we played in the middle of Pennsylvania and they were crawling through the windows like we were the Beatles or something. And that was before we had a deal, so all that touring absolutely helped. It got a lot of tape trading, which was good....kind of like the file sharing.

FIB MUSIC:  What songs were you doing at the time, that later appeared on the self-titled release?

Billy:  We were pretty much doing the first record.

FIB MUSIC:  so you were even playing Long Way to Love?

Billy:  Oh yeah....Long Way to Love was one of the first five or six songs we wrote. As was Girlschool, most of the songs that were on the first album. At that point, we had really clicked. Even Dean as a rhythm player. We were all on the same page, trying to create that wall of rhythm that ACDC, but kicked up a notch and heavier and louder, you know? Even after a few months we were a machine. Tony & I had locked in like mutherfuckers by the second or third day we played together. And Mike & Dean were very good rhythm players.

FIB MUSIC:   There must have been a lot of satisfaction, not only for the rest of you guys, but Michael as well, when you signed your record deal. After being kicked out of Cinderella just as they sign their deal.

Billy:   I can only imagine what that feels liked after getting canned from the band and watching them go off and have all this success. And then to have the endurance and drive to get it back together and manage to do it yourself.

FIB MUSIC:  Do you remember Cinderella when Michael and Tony were in the band?

Billy:  Oh yeah, I actually used to go see them and I thought by far they were the best thing in our club circuit. I knew they were headed for big things, it was obvious. They were absolutely more than a cut above their closest competition. They just had an aura about them and they knew the right people. You could tell things were happening and then the deal got announced. Why they made the member change? I figure there must have been personal reasons involved, that I don't know anything about.

FIB MUSIC:  It must have been, because...and I'm not sure, but I don't think the drummer (Fred Coury) that joined even played on the first two Cinderella albums.

Billy:  I know. Tony was an amazing live drummer. Tony really did things, as far as showmanship and he was just a real "in the pocket" drummer. I still see people today, from the area, that show signs of his influence. That's how much of an impact he made.

FIB MUSIC:  How did Cinderella get their deal?

Billy:  Well, the story goes, that one night Cinderella was playing The Galaxy and Bon Jovi walked in and said he was going to get them a deal. Now is that the truth? I don't know, that seems a little over simplified to me. But I mean it could have happened. I guess it's possible.

Tony Destra

FIB MUSIC:  Tell us about the night that Tony Destra died. Didn't it happen after a gig?

Billy:   Yeah, it did, we had just finished a gig. We were showcasing at that point, I believe this one was for RCA. We had talked to this guy after the gig, for about an hour and half. Seemed to be really into us and said he was going to get us a deal. But they always tell you that, until someone finally does. (laughs) Tony was normal, he wasn't drunk or anything like that. It was February the 8th and it was a real cold winter and Tony liked to drive real fast. And we have a thing here called Black can't even see may think you know the road really well and you hit this shit and then all of a sudden you run into a tree. And that is what basically happened to Tony. He was just doing about 100 mph, but if you went around a corner with Tony he went about 100 mph and he had a car that was more than capable of doing it. But you hear all these stories saying that he was fucked up, but he wasn't. He was on his way to a party, so I'm not saying that he wouldn't have got fucked up later, but he wasn't fucked up when it happened. We had just got done playing and were talking to the record company guy for awhile, so nobody was fucked up.

FIB MUSIC:  What was that experience like for you?

Billy:  It was really odd for me, because I was sitting in the car with the motor running when he said goodbye. We were sitting in the car smoking a joint. It was cold, so we had the motor running and the heat on. So, our light man followed him and came back like two or three minutes later and said that Tony was in an accident. He was all flustered...he was like, I didn't know who to call. So we had the car running and were like, let's roll down, we know where it is. And we start heading down there and are even laughing about it, because we just thought it was going to be a minor fender bender. Then all of a sudden we see a transmission in the road and we're like "what the fuck" and we're looking at each other. Then we pull around the corner and there's the engine laying about a hundred feet away in this lawn and it's steaming. The car is cracked in half and Tony is laying behind it and we're like, "oh Jesus".

FIB MUSIC:   So you guys were the first on the scene?

Billy:  Yeah, this happened only five minutes from the club. It was three in the morning and we were probably there about five minutes before anyone arrived. It was a pretty strange feeling. I remember looking at him and thinking that he looked normal. But then I looked around and saw that the whole side of his head had been ripped off and I knew then that he was definitely dead. It was a really odd feeling. I'll never forget that night.

FIB MUSIC:  How long did it take to find another drummer?

Billy:  Well, we took a week off and had the funeral. Then an old friend stepped in, who had played in another band that used to come see us. So as I say with drummers, sometimes they can just step right in. So after a week, we started rehearsing with the replacement drummer and we sounded great. But we were really pushing for a deal at that time, so we could not afford to stop. So we played with the interim drummer for awhile. We actually signed our deal with him and our label told us that he would have to be replaced.

FIB MUSIC:  (laughs) What's up with these Philadelphia drummers being replaced?

Billy:  That's Britny Fox. But that is also how Johnny Dee stepped in. We tried to get the other guy to do what they were asking, but he just never seemed willing to do it.

FIB MUSIC:  What did they want him to do?

Billy:   Well, you know how it was with the image at that time. They just wanted this guy to be a little more image concious. It's bullshit really, the guy was fine. But, I mean Johnny, what can you say? It was a definite upgrade.

FIB MUSIC:   How would you describe Tony Destra?

Billy:  I never really got to know him as a friend. I really didn't know him that well. I knew him from the beginning of Britny Fox to the point that he passed away, which was about fourteen months later. But he was very focused, very professional and his funeral....Christ, there must have been 1500 people there. It was insane. Tony is the kind of guy who would of love that. He loved being in front of people and really a consummate professional. Never saw him do a bad gig, always put 100% into it.

You know, it's kind of cool in a way, when I think about it and I didn't realize this until a little bit later. But Tony was a little bit older than the rest of us and I'm thinking that if Britny would have gotten this deal, it very well might have been Tony who got asked to leave. I mean knowing what I know now about the music know what I mean? I mean, when Tony died that night after hitting the tree, he died thinking we got the record deal. For whatever that's worth.....I mean, can you imagine if he would have come that far again, only to have that happen would have killed the fucking guy. Who knows....It could have happened for a reason.

FIB MUSIC:  Now, was it just pure coincidence that Dean Davidson sounded a bit like Tom Keifer of Cinderella?

Billy:   Well, no, I think Dean, very conciously modeled himself after Tom Keifer. The band did not, but the band just kind of took its cue from whatever Dean was doing. When a guy writes a song like that and it sounds like something Keifer would write...well, you're probably going to play like that. I mean listen to the voice.....but oddly enough it never really came up. I just always thought, the guy is what he is. If he's that and that is what he's doing, you can't really change it. Because when he tries to sing in his normal voice, it sounds like shit. This is what we got, you know? It's either good enough to get a deal or it's not. That's how I looked at it.

FIB MUSIC:  His regular voice sounded a bit like Paul Stanley.

Billy:   He actually did. I think the problem was that these songs you heard on the first album were the first songs that Dean ever wrote. I don't think he had a lot of time to experiment as a singer and even know what his real voice was capable of or not. Without that raspy, screaming thing, I think he was kind of lost and searching. Now fortunately, we were not in a position to afford having a singer that was still trying to find his voice. We had to go with whatever was working then, because it didn't take long for us to get signed. If we would have been together three years before we got a deal, we probably would have sounded a hell of a lot different. I mean, you guys literally heard the first songs we ever wrote. Even a lot of the songs on the second album were songs.....well, for one thing, it was way too long. If you took about four songs off that album it would be a pretty good album. But at least three or four of those songs on the second album were songs we had on the first.

Dean Davidson
aka Jarod Dean
FIB MUSIC:   Why haven't they done a re-release of the first album yet?

Billy:  I thought they did on Sony / Legacy or something like that, or was that a greatest hits?

FIB MUSIC:   I think it was a greatest hits, but the first one I believe is still considered to be a collectible.

Billy:   Collectible. Really? I wish I had some....shit.

FIB MUSIC:  Yeah, I have seen it sell on Ebay for around $30.00.

Billy:  No shit? I think they re-released one of them about a year ago....I don't know. I don't really keep up with that kind of stuff, it doesn't really do anything for me financially.

FIB MUSIC:  You don't get any royalty payments from the sales?

Billy:  Nah. It's been a long time.

FIB MUSIC:  Who owns the rights to those recordings?

Billy:  Well, anything that we did on Sony / Columbia, they still own it.

FIB MUSIC:  That's amazing, because I would think you guys recouped expenses on the first album.

Billy:   Well....I don't believe according to the paperwork.

FIB MUSIC:  Isn't that amazing?

Billy:  Yeah, it's funny how that always seems to work out. I think there are about two dozen bands that have ever recouped. You have to be Bon Jovi to recoup in this business. We were drawing a lot of tour support, you know, we were borrowing a lot of money from them. That's what a record company is basically, a big fucking loan company. All they do is loan you money and make money off your shit. It wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be...I remember that.

FIB MUSIC:   Any cool moments stand out from the self-titled recording sessions?

Billy:  Oh, I don't know. It was pretty boring to tell you the truth.

FIB MUSIC:  Where was it recorded?

Billy:  We did a lot of the stuff down here. We did the rhythm tracks at the Warehouse in Philadelphia and then we went to the House of Music, up in Jersey. That's where we finished it up.

FIB MUSIC:  How long did it take to record and what was the recording budget?

Billy:  I think it took about two months. The recording budget....I think was pretty cheap. I think it was about sixty or seventy thousand.

FIB MUSIC:  Wow. That was pretty cheap for back in the day. You guys should have easily recouped with that kind of budget. Didn't that album go platinum?

Billy:   Well, that was the part that always confused me. Here's what I think happened. We were up to like 900,000 or something like that and we had just put out a third video.... a ballad, but it really kind of stunk actually. It died and didn't do much. So instead of doing another video.....I mean we were still playing, touring and doing shit, but they pulled the plug on it. And I still think to this day, that the reason they did that was because if you go platinum, you can renegotiate and I don't think that they thought we would go much past platinum and then we would have probably wanted to renegotiate. So to avoid a big hassle, I think they kind of conspired to keep us under platinum, if you know what I mean.

FIB MUSIC:  Who were some of the bands that you toured with to support the self-titled release?

Billy:  Poison, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Ratt, Kix, Danger Danger, Bang Tango, Great that was the second album, Lita Ford.

FIB MUSIC:  Any cool moments stand out from that tour?

Billy:  Oh you know, they're all the same, typical rock star moments, bang two chicks in a hot tub. You read about somebody throwing shit out a window....I probably did that too at some point. (laughs)

FIB MUSIC:  How about any moments from the tour, or playing with the bands, or any shows stand out? Beyond the groupie stuff, are there any favorite moments?

Billy:  Well the whole experience was just amazing. It is hard to quantify it with just one experience, you know? You kind of had to take it as a whole. I guess the one thing I loved about it was the travel. Going back and forth to Japan and Europe. Flying all over this country. I always enjoyed the playing (live). I don't remember ever being nervous. When we were doing our first arena gigs, people were like, so I guess you're going to be nervous now. But for some reason, I never felt nervous, I really felt we belonged here, you know? And once again, the best times for me was that six month window, between thinking we were going to be successful and signing our deal. It still being fun. Those van tours were a blast.

FIB MUSIC:  What was it like working with Dean Davidson?

Billy:  It's tough. You absolutely had to do things on Dean's terms. But if you do what your supposed to do and he's got a half decent idea, you're going to come out with a good song. No everything was good, but your chances are good that he'll come up with a pretty good idea. It's business, you don't let personal shit get in the way of that.

FIB MUSIC:  But he was like that before you guys got signed?

Billy:  Well it was all really professional from the beginning. We weren't friends that decided to form a band. We were guys who had the same goals in mind and you need other people to make that happen. And we were just the people that were there at that time. Although, I had crossed paths with Dean & Mike, I had never met Tony before. But we were never a band that hung out together, we would always go our separate ways.

FIB MUSIC:  It was even like that after you guys were signed?

Billy:  Absolutely. You know, it's tough when you take guys that are all so different from each other and all of a sudden they're living on top of each other, ten months on a tour bus & hotels & shit. It actually aggravates it. So, I would say it got worse once we got our deal. But it wasn't really uncomfortable for anyone's standpoint, you know, it was alright. It was really just Dean....things got worse with Dean.

FIB MUSIC:  What was that about?

Billy:  Well, you know, lead singer-idis. He just had a really bad case of it. They get all ME, ME, ME....that's the nature of that beast. Some can control it, but he was just one that couldn't control it.

FIB MUSIC:  ....and then suddenly he leaves the band?

Billy:  Yeah, he left...he started some silly-ass fight and he left. But see, he was walking into a deal with Polygram that was all being brokered behind our back. I mean looking back now, I think we could have probably sued him, but that's not really my style anyhow.

FIB MUSIC:  So they offered him another record deal to form Black Eyed Susan?

Billy:  Yeah, he got a half million dollars that he put right into his pocket from that deal. So that was why it was beneficial for him. But it still could have been done a lot better. They could have been done, so it didn't cost us and everybody so much money. I mean, we would have made a lot more than that in gig money. I mean we had gigs lined up, that were great paying gigs. And we had about eight months of that in front of us and if we wanted we could have booked another eight. So, him leaving was very detrimental to the cash flow. So he signs to Polygram and Black Eyed Susan releases an album and absolutely drops dead. It didn't sell anything and was considered a failure. But he still got the money. That was a long time ago...does he still have the money? I don't think so. But I don't know what he is doing now, I haven't talked to him in quite awhile.

FIB MUSIC:  Did you guys have a feeling that "Long Way to Love" was going to be such a big hit?

Billy:  Well, I know that was the plan and that was the hope. I don't remember feeling completely confident. I knew when we did the video and I saw all the shit that was in there, I felt pretty good about it. I do remember that the first video budget was around the fifty to sixty grand range. Seemed like a lot to spend, you know? But then it started doing well and then it started doing really well. Then Girlschool was next. Which Girlschool was pretty big, but I probably would have jammed something else in there and then come back with Girlschool. Like I said before, I think there plan was to just hit quick. But we knew that Girlschool would do well and personally I wasn't too crazy about it, because I thought from then on we would be known as the Girlschool band. It was kind of bittersweet for me, but looking back who really cares, you have a chance to do it, then you should do it. Then we release the ballad, which did not do well and that's when they pulled the plug on us. I would have done "Fun in Texas" as the third video. One thing, we didn't get much radio. If you to watch MTV, you would have thought the biggest in the world were Def Leppard, Poison, KISS, Britny Fox. In reality, they all got tons of radio, but we never did. That was what killed us. In the beginning I think it was Dean's voice....I think we got kind of stigmatized. All of our success was due to video and touring.

FIB MUSIC:  How were you living at that time?

Billy:  Well, so much of our money went back into Britny Fox Incorporated. So when the money dried up and there weren't any chunks coming in, we still had something to live off of and pay the bills and shit. But we just put ourselves on a salary and occasionally we would get chunks of money in that we would split up and keep.

FIB MUSIC:  But you did receive some royalties from album sales, right?

Billy:  Oh yeah, back then....not as much as you would think. I mean a lot of its the writer's royalties and Dean got all the credit for writing everything. We didn't realize the importance of that. We split our advance four ways, as most bands do. But the money is in the publishing and we were too stupid to realize that, at least I was at any rate. But then everybody else was to, because they didn't really make a fuss when Dean was screaming to get his name on everything. We were just like whatever keeps the peace.

FIB MUSIC:  Did he write everything?

Billy:  He was absolutely the catalyst for a lot of those ideas. Did he write everything? No. But he was so adamant saying, "I'm the writer, I'm the writer", and we were just like, whatever shuts this guy up. We're traveling the world being rock stars, who cares, give him the fucking publishing. So split the chunk up front and put his name on everything..I'm sick of hearing it. So that's how he became the creative mastermind. The reality is Dean would come in with this line and this riff and he would start playing it, then the band would start playing it and then I would be like, go here and then everybody would go here and we would do it and then twenty minutes later we would have the skeleton of the song laid out. That's how we did everything. So we were just putting these songs together, not talking about the publishing, playing clubs and kicking ass, until the business side started and that's when Dean became so adamant. But no one was really bringing ideas in, we figured what this guy seems to be doing is working, so knock yourself out. I didn't want to be Mr. Writer here, you're the guy fucking doing it. We're riding around in a tour bus, we're doing something right, so keep it up. But every once in a while, we thought we should be compensated for our ideas. If a song has four parts in it and Dean came up with the first one and I came up with the other three, then I should get a credit for that, don't you think? But that is where the rope came in with Dean, so rather than fight about it, we just said fuck it. What are the chances that this is going to be worth shit anyway.

FIB MUSIC:  What's so bizarre is that Britny Fox was already his band, where he had complete creative control. Yet, he leaves the band to start another.

Billy:  It was....but unfortunately, all this nonsense played into his narcissistic side of him. And when you start to feed a narcissus, forget it. I mean they're uncontrollable anyway. And then you put one of those people in the position of being the lead singer in a successful band....Oh, my God. I could draw you a graph man, from the time to when we first started and he wanted us to play with him; he was like a little kitten. And then as this band became more and more successful, he was the biggest pain in the ass before we were even out of the clubs. The guy was impossible.

FIB MUSIC:  But he was great in the beginning?

Billy:  Oh absolutely, that's kind of his motive. When he needs you, when he's not doing so well, he's the nicest guy in the world and you think, wow maybe this guy has changed. But I have found that people might change, but it's really rare. And Dean has been one of those who has never really changed. It's always what he needs at that particular time, he will do. If he needs to get a band around him, a good band and he wants to try to do this idea; you better believe he's going to kiss their asses. But as the band gets bigger and it's obvious that no one is going to leave, that's when you see the real him start to come out. Ah, don't even get me started on that. You can ask any of the other guys and they'll tell you the same story. But I remember that by the time Tony had died, we were already starting to fight like cats and dogs.

FIB MUSIC:  Any memories come to mind from the day you signed your record deal?

Billy:  I remember the day we signed the record deal, was right on my birthday, which is November 20th. And after we signed, everyone was bullshitting, we were in New York and I go down and I'm thinking, "wow, it's really fucking crowded, I wonder why it's so fucking crowded". And everyone is looking out the window and I look out the window and all of a sudden the huge Christmas tree they got at Rockefeller Center just went off right in front of me. I was thinking, "wow, this is a pretty symbolic day, it's my birthday, I just signed a fucking record deal with CBS and then that big fucking tree lights up in front of me".

Johnny Dee & Billy Childs
back in the day